Margaret McClusky

A slightly unconventional 1950s upbringing – I was nourished on Russia’s virtues as well as Weeties – may be responsible for my inability to believe in that pandemic, the tall poppy syndrome; instead I’ve always seen the naming of it as just one more jaunt down that jingoistic path which supposedly leads to the discovery of a definition of Australian identity – surely one of the dreariest literary pursuits known to person. But having popped my head up over the parapet a few times in the last few weeks, and having attracted an absolute fusillade of complaint, I was thinking seriously about changing my tune.

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Just one of the interesting things I found out from reading Tom Shapcott’s The Literature Board: A Brief History (reviewed by Evan Williams in the April ABR) was that I appeared to be just about the only person in Australia who’d never received a Lit. Board grant. Well, me and Sasha Soldatow, who’s a minor celebrity because of Private – Do Not Open (Penguin $8.95 pb) but much more famous for never having received a grant in over a decade’s application. One year he even included a naked photo – of himself – with the standard form. That only seemed to contribute to his perfect score: twelve out of twelve knock backs. And that’s just one thing you won’t find in Tom Shapcott’s book, teeming though it is with statistics for every occasion.

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